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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).
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Gender and Integral Theory
A New Perspective on Equality and Identity
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Gender has been a critical topic of discussion in various academic, social, and political spheres. For centuries, societies have grappled with the complexities of gender roles, identities, and inequalities. Integral theory, a philosophical framework that seeks to synthesize multiple perspectives into a cohesive whole, presents a unique approach to understanding gender issues. By acknowledging the interconnectedness of all aspects of human experience, integral theory can contribute to a deeper understanding of gender, promote greater inclusivity, and recognize the diversity of gender identities. This essay explores how integral theory can enrich our comprehension of gender, thereby fostering a more equitable and inclusive society.
Integral Theory: A Brief Overview
Integral theory, developed by philosopher Ken Wilber, proposes an integrative approach to understanding human consciousness and experience. It posits that reality is composed of multiple dimensions, or "quadrants"—individual interior, individual exterior, collective interior, and collective exterior—that interact and influence each other. Additionally, integral theory incorporates developmental stages, lines of development, states of consciousness, and types of experience, providing a comprehensive framework to address the complexity of human existence.
Gender and the Complexity of Identity
Gender is a multifaceted concept that extends beyond binary definitions of male and female. It encompasses a spectrum of identities, including but not limited to transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, and genderfluid individuals. Traditional frameworks have often failed to fully acknowledge and accommodate this complexity, leading to marginalization and discrimination against those who do not conform to societal norms.
Integral theory, with its emphasis on complexity and interconnection, offers a more nuanced understanding of gender identity. By recognizing the individual interior quadrant, it acknowledges the subjective experiences and internal perceptions of gender. This opens the door to embracing diverse gender identities and understanding that one's gender identity is not solely determined by biological sex.
Integrating Biological and Social Aspects of Gender
Integral theory's approach allows for the integration of both biological and social aspects of gender. The individual exterior quadrant acknowledges the biological basis of sex, including hormonal and anatomical differences. Simultaneously, the collective exterior quadrant recognizes the role of society in shaping gender norms, roles, and expectations.
Instead of pitting biology against culture, integral theory encourages an inclusive perspective that accounts for both nature and nurture. This integrative approach helps challenge essentialist notions of gender and fosters a more comprehensive understanding of the dynamic interplay between biology and culture in shaping gender identity and expression.
The Developmental Perspective on Gender
Integral theory's developmental perspective is particularly relevant when exploring gender identity formation. According to integral theory, individuals progress through various stages of cognitive, emotional, and moral development. These stages, often influenced by cultural and social factors, influence how individuals perceive and express their gender identity.
Understanding gender development through this lens helps to destigmatize different gender identities. It acknowledges that individuals may progress through various stages of gender understanding and expression, and that all stages have inherent value. By recognizing that gender identity is not fixed but can evolve over time, integral theory contributes to a more accepting and compassionate society.
Addressing Gender Inequality and Power Dynamics
Gender inequality has been a persistent issue in societies worldwide. Women and non-binary individuals have historically faced discrimination, limited access to opportunities, and systemic barriers to advancement. Integral theory's emphasis on the collective interior quadrant provides a valuable perspective for addressing the root causes of gender inequality.
By examining the cultural narratives, belief systems, and value structures that perpetuate gender inequality, integral theory enables us to develop more effective strategies for creating meaningful change. It calls for dismantling rigid gender roles and challenging the hierarchical power structures that maintain unequal gender dynamics.
Inclusivity and Intersectionality in Gender Discourse
Integral theory's holistic approach also accommodates intersectionality—the recognition that individuals hold multiple social identities that intersect to create unique experiences of oppression and privilege. Gender intersects with race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and other identities, leading to varied experiences of marginalization.
By incorporating intersectionality into gender discourse, integral theory encourages us to consider the different layers of identity and how they contribute to one's lived experiences. This inclusive perspective supports a more empathetic understanding of the diverse challenges faced by individuals belonging to different gender and social identities.
Transcending Gender Binaries: Beyond Duality
Integral theory challenges the binary view of gender and encourages us to transcend dualistic thinking. By recognizing the existence of multiple genders along a spectrum, it embraces the fluidity of gender identity. This shift is instrumental in moving beyond restrictive notions of masculinity and femininity, which have perpetuated harmful stereotypes and norms.
Embracing a more fluid conception of gender allows for the acceptance and validation of individuals who do not conform to traditional gender norms. This liberation from binary thinking fosters a more inclusive society, wherein diverse gender identities are celebrated rather than suppressed.
Gender, Spirituality, and Consciousness
Integral theory's engagement with states of consciousness and spiritual development provides a unique perspective on gender and identity. Spirituality can play a transformative role in one's understanding of self and gender, leading to greater acceptance and authenticity.
By recognizing the spiritual dimension of gender identity, integral theory encourages individuals to explore their gender experiences beyond the material and social realms. This opens up possibilities for personal growth, self-discovery, and profound acceptance of one's gender identity as an integral part of their holistic being.
Integral theory offers a groundbreaking perspective on gender that transcends traditional paradigms. By acknowledging the complexity of identity, integrating biological and social aspects, recognizing developmental stages, addressing gender inequality, embracing intersectionality, and challenging binary thinking, integral theory fosters a deeper understanding of gender issues.
In doing so, it promotes inclusivity, acceptance, and recognition of diverse gender identities. Embracing integral theory can lead to a more equitable and compassionate society that values and celebrates the richness of gender diversity. By working towards a world where all individuals are accepted and respected for their unique gender identities, we can move closer to achieving true equality and genuine recognition of human identity in all its multifaceted forms.
It is sometimes said that sex is a binary, but gender and sexual preference is a spectrum. Please comment.
The statement that "sex is a binary, but gender and sexual preference is a spectrum" reflects an important distinction between biological sex and gender identity, as well as sexual orientation. Let's examine each concept to understand their differences and complexities:
Biological Sex as Binary:
Biological sex refers to the physical characteristics that are typically categorized as male or female based on reproductive functions. Traditionally, it has been taught that there are two distinct sexes—male and female—determined by the presence of either XX chromosomes (female) or XY chromosomes (male). This binary classification is based on observable physical traits like genitalia, reproductive organs, and secondary sexual characteristics. However, it is essential to acknowledge that biological sex can be more complex than a simple binary classification. Intersex individuals are born with variations in sex characteristics that do not fit typical definitions of male or female. These variations may include chromosomal, hormonal, or anatomical differences. The existence of intersex individuals highlights the biological diversity that challenges the strict binary view of sex.
Gender Identity as a Spectrum:
Gender identity refers to an individual's deeply-held sense of their own gender, whether they identify as male, female, or another gender entirely. While society has historically adhered to a binary understanding of gender (male or female), the recognition of diverse gender identities has grown significantly in recent years.
Gender identity is now understood to exist along a spectrum, beyond the traditional male-female binary. Some people identify as transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, or agender, among other identities. Each person's experience of their gender is unique and valid, reflecting the complexity of human identity.
The understanding of gender as a spectrum recognizes that individuals may not fit neatly into traditional gender categories. Instead, they may experience their gender identity as fluid, evolving, or situated somewhere in between male and female. This recognition promotes inclusivity and acknowledges the diverse experiences of gender in society.
Sexual Orientation as a Spectrum:
Sexual orientation refers to an individual's emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction to others. Like gender identity, sexual orientation is not limited to a binary model. Traditionally, the binary understanding portrayed sexual orientation as heterosexual (attraction to the opposite gender) or homosexual (attraction to the same gender).
However, contemporary understanding acknowledges that sexual orientation exists along a spectrum, encompassing a range of identities, including heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and more. Each identity reflects a different pattern of attraction, allowing for a diverse and multifaceted understanding of human sexuality.
The statement that "sex is a binary, but gender and sexual preference is a spectrum" encapsulates the evolving understanding of human identity. While biological sex has traditionally been viewed as binary, the existence of intersex individuals demonstrates the complexity and diversity within this classification.
In contrast, the recognition of gender identity and sexual orientation as spectra acknowledges the richness and variety of human experiences. Embracing these diverse identities promotes inclusivity, understanding, and acceptance within society. By acknowledging and respecting each individual's unique gender identity and sexual orientation, we can move towards a more equitable and compassionate world that values the full spectrum of human diversity.
Then there is intersexuality, which has a biological basis. Please elaborate on all the variants.
Intersexuality, also known as Disorders of Sex Development (DSD) or differences of sex development, refers to a range of conditions where an individual's reproductive or sexual anatomy does not fit the typical definitions of male or female. Intersex variations occur due to a combination of genetic, hormonal, and anatomical factors during prenatal development. It is essential to understand that intersexuality is a natural and biological occurrence, affecting a small percentage of the population.
There are various intersex variations, and each case is unique. Some of the common intersex variations include:
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS):
In AIS, individuals with XY chromosomes have partial or complete insensitivity to male sex hormones (androgens). As a result, they may have female external genitalia or ambiguous genitalia despite having male internal reproductive structures (testes).
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH):
CAH is a condition where the adrenal glands produce excessive androgens, leading to atypical development of the external genitalia in females. In some cases, individuals with CAH may have ambiguous genitalia at birth.
This condition affects the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), leading to atypical development of external genitalia in individuals assigned female at birth. The external genitalia may appear more male-like at puberty.
Individuals with Klinefelter Syndrome have an extra X chromosome (XXY), leading to atypical development of male sexual characteristics. They may have reduced levels of testosterone and exhibit physical characteristics such as taller stature, reduced body hair, and underdeveloped testes.
Turner Syndrome occurs in individuals with a missing or partially missing X chromosome (XO). People with Turner Syndrome may have atypical ovarian development, leading to infertility and physical features such as short stature and specific facial characteristics.
Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis:
In this condition, individuals may have both male and female gonadal tissue. They may have ambiguous genitalia or external genitalia that do not clearly align with typical male or female structures.
Mosaic intersex variations occur when an individual's cells have different chromosomal patterns. For example, some cells may have XX chromosomes, while others have XY chromosomes.
It is crucial to recognize that intersexuality is not a disorder or a medical condition that requires "correction" unless there are health complications that may arise. Many intersex individuals lead healthy and fulfilling lives without requiring surgical interventions to conform to societal norms of binary sex.
Furthermore, intersex individuals and their families may face unique challenges, including stigmatization, medical interventions without informed consent, and difficulties in obtaining accurate information about their condition. Advocacy and awareness efforts seek to promote understanding, respect, and human rights for intersex individuals.
In recent years, there has been a growing movement to promote intersex rights and challenge harmful practices, such as non-consensual genital surgeries on intersex infants. Medical professionals, human rights organizations, and intersex advocacy groups work together to raise awareness, support individuals and families, and advocate for the right to bodily autonomy and self-determination for intersex individuals.
It is essential to approach intersexuality with sensitivity, empathy, and respect, recognizing the diversity of human biological and gender experiences. Accepting and valuing intersex individuals as an integral part of our diverse human tapestry is a crucial step towards building a more inclusive and compassionate society.
Please relate this topic to the gender wars, the woke and anti-woke movements.
The topic of intersexuality is deeply connected to the ongoing gender wars and the larger socio-political landscape surrounding the "woke" and anti-"woke" movements. Understanding how intersexuality intersects with these movements provides valuable insights into the complexities of contemporary debates around gender, identity, and social justice.
Gender Wars and Identity Politics:
The gender wars refer to the ongoing debates and conflicts over issues related to gender, gender roles, and gender identity. Within this context, identity politics has become a prominent feature of discussions on gender. Identity politics emphasizes the importance of recognizing and advocating for the rights and interests of specific social groups, including those based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and more.
The recognition of intersexuality challenges the notion of a rigid binary understanding of gender and biological sex. Intersex individuals embody the complexities and nuances of human identity, disrupting the traditional "male" and "female" categories. This challenges the foundation of the gender wars, as it calls for a more inclusive and expansive understanding of gender beyond the binary framework.
The "Woke" Movement:
The "woke" movement, often associated with progressive ideologies, seeks to promote awareness and action towards social justice issues, including gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights. Within the "woke" movement, there is an emphasis on recognizing and addressing systemic inequalities, challenging oppressive structures, and advocating for marginalized communities.
In the context of intersexuality, the "woke" movement is likely to be supportive, as it aligns with the principles of inclusivity and recognition of diverse gender identities. The movement's emphasis on understanding the complex interplay of biological, social, and cultural factors in shaping identity resonates with the recognition of intersex individuals and their experiences.
The Anti-"Woke" Movement:
On the other hand, the anti-"woke" movement is critical of what it perceives as excessive political correctness, identity politics, and social justice activism. It often argues against the expansion of gender categories and the recognition of non-binary or genderqueer identities, maintaining a more traditional view of gender as binary.
Within the anti-"woke" movement, there may be resistance or skepticism towards the recognition of intersex individuals and their experiences. Some may argue that the focus on intersexuality and non-binary identities is a result of overreaching identity politics, leading to claims of political correctness gone too far.
Intersectionality and Intersexuality:
Intersectionality, a concept closely related to the "woke" movement, acknowledges that individuals hold multiple social identities that intersect and contribute to their experiences of privilege or oppression. Intersex individuals are not only affected by their intersex status but also by other aspects of their identity, such as race, class, and sexual orientation.
Intersectionality provides a lens through which to understand the unique challenges faced by intersex individuals, especially when considering how societal prejudices and systemic discrimination impact their lives. The intersectional approach calls for comprehensive and holistic support that recognizes and addresses all aspects of a person's identity.
Intersexuality offers a compelling perspective in the context of the gender wars and the "woke" and anti-"woke" movements. The recognition of intersex individuals challenges traditional binary understandings of gender and biological sex, highlighting the complexity of human identity. It underscores the importance of embracing inclusivity and acknowledging the experiences of diverse gender identities.
The "woke" movement, with its emphasis on social justice and inclusivity, is likely to align with the recognition of intersex individuals. On the other hand, the anti-"woke" movement may exhibit resistance or skepticism, as it tends to uphold more traditional views of gender.
Embracing intersectionality allows us to recognize the multifaceted nature of intersex individuals' identities and the unique challenges they face. By fostering open dialogue, empathy, and understanding, we can work towards a more compassionate and equitable society that values and celebrates the diversity of human experiences.
How would the developmental stages as understood by integral theory view sexuality and gender issues?
Integral theory's developmental perspective provides a valuable framework for understanding sexuality and gender issues by recognizing the complex and evolving nature of human development. The developmental stages, as understood by integral theory, offer insights into how individuals perceive and navigate their sexuality and gender identities throughout their lives. Here's how integral theory views sexuality and gender issues through the lens of developmental stages:
In the preconventional stage, individuals are primarily driven by biological instincts and external influences. At this stage, understanding of sexuality and gender may be limited to simple and binary concepts based on societal norms and conditioning. Individuals may conform to traditional gender roles and beliefs about heterosexual norms as they develop a sense of identity.
During the conventional stage, individuals become more influenced by cultural and societal norms. They internalize the expectations of their community, family, and culture, which may reinforce traditional gender roles and norms related to sexuality. Individuals in this stage may experience pressure to conform to binary gender identities and conform to heteronormative expectations.
The postconventional stage marks a significant shift in the individual's perception of sexuality and gender. They begin to question the cultural constructs and norms surrounding gender and sexuality, seeking to understand their own unique identity and desires. At this stage, individuals may explore diverse gender identities and sexual orientations, recognizing the limitations of binary thinking.
The unitive stage represents a further expansion of consciousness, where individuals embrace an inclusive and non-dual perspective. They recognize the interconnectedness of all aspects of human experience, including gender and sexuality. At this stage, individuals may develop a more holistic understanding of gender and sexuality, celebrating diversity and respecting the complexity of human identity.
Integral theory's developmental perspective does not prescribe a linear or fixed trajectory for individuals' experiences of gender and sexuality. Instead, it acknowledges that people may progress through different stages at different rates and may experience fluidity in their understanding of identity.
Integral theory's focus on inclusivity and acceptance aligns well with contemporary discussions about gender and sexual diversity. By acknowledging the uniqueness of individual experiences, integral theory encourages empathy and compassion towards those who do not fit into traditional gender or sexual norms.
Furthermore, integral theory's recognition of multiple dimensions (quadrants) of human experience allows for a comprehensive examination of gender and sexuality. It considers not only the individual interior experiences and development but also the individual exterior (biological) aspects, as well as the collective interior (cultural beliefs, norms) and collective exterior (societal structures) dimensions that shape gender and sexual identities.
By integrating these various dimensions, integral theory promotes a more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of sexuality and gender issues, fostering greater inclusivity, and contributing to a more equitable and accepting society.
Why is this such a "hot" topic do you think?
The topic of gender and sexuality, including discussions around gender identity, sexual orientation, and related issues, is considered "hot" due to several factors:
Societal Norms and Traditions:
For centuries, societies around the world have adhered to traditional gender norms and roles, often reinforcing binary conceptions of gender and sexuality. As discussions challenging these norms and advocating for inclusivity and acceptance of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations gain momentum, it challenges deeply ingrained beliefs and may trigger resistance and controversy.
Human Rights and Social Justice:
The discourse on gender and sexuality is intertwined with human rights and social justice movements. Advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights, recognition of non-binary identities, and the push for equal treatment and protections for all individuals regardless of their gender or sexual orientation is at the core of the conversation. This raises fundamental questions about equality, dignity, and the realization of human rights for all, making it a passionate and polarizing topic.
Changing Cultural Attitudes:
In recent years, cultural attitudes towards gender and sexuality have been evolving rapidly. With increased visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals and non-binary identities in media, politics, and everyday life, there has been a growing awareness and acceptance of gender diversity. This cultural shift has sparked both support and backlash, leading to heated debates.
Impact on Identity and Self-Expression:
Discussions around gender and sexuality directly impact individual identity and self-expression. For many individuals, it is a deeply personal and emotional topic. Embracing and expressing one's authentic gender identity or sexual orientation can be a liberating and empowering experience, but it can also involve facing discrimination, stigma, and challenges.
Religious and Cultural Beliefs:
Some religious and cultural traditions hold conservative views on gender and sexuality, leading to clashes between traditional beliefs and progressive perspectives. These clashes often intensify the debate, as they touch on deeply held values and worldviews.
Legal and Policy Implications:
Gender and sexuality discussions have significant legal and policy implications, such as access to healthcare, education, employment, and legal recognition of relationships. Debates on these issues can have far-reaching consequences, and different groups may have strong interests in shaping policies that align with their values and beliefs.
Media and Social Media Influence:
The advent of social media and digital communication has amplified discussions around gender and sexuality. Social media platforms have provided spaces for diverse voices to be heard, but they can also foster echo chambers and create polarized online communities, fueling the intensity of the debate.
In summary, the "hot" nature of the topic of gender and sexuality arises from its intersection with societal norms, human rights, changing cultural attitudes, personal identity, religious and cultural beliefs, legal implications, and the influence of media and social media. As society continues to grapple with these complex issues, open dialogue, empathy, and understanding are crucial in fostering a more inclusive and accepting world for all individuals, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
Explain the acronym LGBTIQA+ to me.
The acronym LGBTIQA+ is an inclusive and evolving term used to refer to various sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions. It represents a diverse community of individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual, and other identities. The "+" at the end of the acronym signifies that the list is not exhaustive and is meant to be inclusive of other identities and experiences beyond those explicitly mentioned.
Here's what each letter in the acronym stands for:
L: Lesbian - A woman who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to other women.
G: Gay - Initially used to refer to homosexual men, but now used more broadly to describe people of any gender who are attracted to others of the same gender.
B: Bisexual - An individual who is emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to both men and women or multiple genders.
T: Transgender - A term for individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, a person assigned male at birth who identifies as a woman is a transgender woman.
I: Intersex - Intersex individuals are born with variations in sex characteristics that do not fit typical definitions of male or female. These variations may be chromosomal, hormonal, or anatomical.
Q: Queer - An inclusive term that can be used to describe a wide range of non-heterosexual orientations and gender identities. It is often used by individuals who don't feel well represented by other labels or who prefer a more fluid identity.
A: Asexual - A person who experiences little or no sexual attraction to others. Some asexual individuals may still experience romantic or emotional attraction.
The "+" represents an acknowledgment of the diverse range of identities and experiences that may not be captured by the initial letters. This can include identities like pansexual, genderqueer, non-binary, questioning, two-spirit, and more. The "+" reflects an ongoing commitment to inclusivity and recognizing the fluidity and complexity of human identities.
It's important to note that individuals within the LGBTIQA+ community may have different experiences, challenges, and needs. The acronym serves as a shorthand to refer to a diverse and vibrant community, but it is essential to recognize that each person's experience of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression is unique and should be respected.
Sex operations, which happen more frequently and at a younger age, are the most controversial aspects. Describe how the various groups in society (predictably) respond to this.
The topic of sex reassignment surgeries, also known as gender-affirming surgeries or gender confirmation surgeries, can elicit varied and often polarized responses from different groups in society. These responses are influenced by a combination of cultural, religious, ethical, and ideological factors. Here's how various groups in society predictably respond to sex operations:
LGBTQ+ Advocates and Allies:
LGBTQ+ advocates and allies generally support access to gender-affirming surgeries as an essential aspect of healthcare for transgender individuals. They argue that these surgeries are medically necessary for many transgender people to alleviate gender dysphoria, improve mental health, and enhance overall well-being. They emphasize the importance of bodily autonomy and the right to self-determination in decisions related to gender identity and expression.
Conservative and Religious Groups:
Conservative and religious groups often express reservations or opposition to sex operations. Some groups view gender-affirming surgeries as contrary to their traditional beliefs about gender and the natural order. They may perceive these surgeries as challenging the binary understanding of gender and see them as promoting a secular and progressive agenda that goes against their religious teachings.
Medical Professionals and Ethicists:
Medical professionals and ethicists' responses to sex operations can vary. Some medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association, support access to gender-affirming surgeries for transgender individuals as part of comprehensive healthcare. However, individual healthcare providers may have differing views based on their personal beliefs or concerns about potential risks and outcomes of these surgeries.
Ethicists often engage in debates surrounding informed consent, age of consent for surgeries, and ensuring that individuals are well-informed about the procedures and potential long-term effects before making such life-altering decisions.
Parents and Family Members of Transgender Individuals:
Parents and family members of transgender individuals may have diverse responses to sex operations. Some may be supportive and advocate for their loved one's right to access gender-affirming surgeries if it aligns with the individual's needs and well-being. Others may experience uncertainty or concerns about the implications of such procedures and may need time to understand and accept their loved one's journey.
Legal and Policy Makers:
The responses of legal and policy makers often influence access to gender-affirming surgeries and related healthcare services. In some regions, there may be progressive policies that support the rights of transgender individuals to access gender-affirming healthcare, including surgeries. However, in other places, there may be restrictive laws or lack of support for such medical procedures.
Media and Public Discourse:
Media coverage and public discourse on sex operations can be diverse. Some media outlets and public figures may promote understanding and empathy towards transgender individuals, emphasizing the importance of access to healthcare, including gender-affirming surgeries. However, other media sources may perpetuate misconceptions, stereotypes, or misinformation, contributing to controversies and negative attitudes.
Sex operations are undeniably a contentious topic, and responses to them are influenced by a complex interplay of societal attitudes, cultural beliefs, medical considerations, ethical discussions, and legal and policy landscapes. Understanding the different perspectives allows for constructive dialogue and an opportunity to create more informed, compassionate, and inclusive discussions around gender-affirming surgeries and transgender healthcare as a whole.
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